Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Prayer to please God rather than men

“I close my eyes, then I drift away, into the magic night I softly say. A silent prayer, like dreamers do, then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you.” Roy Orbison

By Alex P. Vidal

FATHER, we leave 2014 with great enthusiasm and optimism for 2015.
We desire to please You rather than men.
Forgive us for loving the approval and the praise and glory that come from men (instead of and) more than the glory that comes from You. (We value our credit with You more than credit with men).
We declare that we are free from the fear of men, which brings a snare. We lean on, trust in and put our confidence in You.
We are safe and set on high.


We take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, “The Lord is our Helper, we will not be seized with alarm (we will not fear or dread or be terrified).
What can man do to us?
Father, just as you sent Jesus, You have sent us.
You are ever with us, for we always seek to do what pleases You.
In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Money ruined him

“A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.” Jonathan Swift

By Alex P. Vidal

WE have been reminded that money is not evil per se, or possession of money is not really evil.
The want to have money for specific reasons and purposes can’t and should not be considered as evil.
It’s the excessive love for money, or its excessive possession for excessive, irrational and wicked purposes that is the root of all evil.
Everybody is seeking for money, but it is the seeking that counts, as money is not always a blessing when it comes.
In a story narrated by Dr. Frank Crane in Everyday Wisdom, there was a man who won $20,000 for suggesting the name “Liberty” to a popular magazine.
“He is now charged by his wife with the abandonment of her and his four children,” narrates Crane.
Crane says the first thing the man did with his prize money, his wife claimed, was to buy a six-cylinder touring car and a quart of liquor.
She also said that he kept paying $5, $10 and $15 tips to taxicab chauffeurs and bootleggers.
“Before he won that prize we were in pretty poor circumstances,” said his wife. “We were in debt, but at least we were happy.”


The question in life is not only who is going to receive the prizes, but what people are going to do with them.
Crane warns that winning a beauty prize may mean moral and spiritual ruin to the successful contestant. Beauty is of no advantage unless used beautifully.
“Many a man has found it harder work to take care of his money when he got it than to get it in the first place,” observes Crane. “If he makes a large amount of money he finds all society arrayed against him. Beggars assail him, tradesmen overcharge him, and the government taxes him. He finds that the possession of money renders him a marked man.”
A man with a large fortune is in one respect like Cain, for every man’s hand is again him, according to Crane.
So there are two sides to success.
It is a question whether success is more valuable as a goal to be attained than it is as a goal which has been attained.
Those on the way up to it get plenty of advice and sympathy from others. Those who have arrived do not receive much sympathy.
“It takes considerable training to be able to take care of money,” counsels Crane. “And often people who are suddenly raised to affluence do not know what to do with their possessions.”


Certainly if receiving a large sum of money induces a man to take up extravagant and bad habits and to desert his wife and children it is a bad thing for him.
The same thing is true with the possession of any talent. A man may be a great violinist, a great pianist, or a great speaker, and his success may ruin him as a man.
It is very difficult for anyone who is extraordinarily endowed in any way, either in money or talent, to keep his faculties in balance.
Crane issues a warning: “The best condition for a man is one of struggle and uncertainty. While he is struggling he is automatically kept normal and in check. That the majority of the human race is not on Easy Street is a good thing for the race.”
If every man were a millionaire the world would speedily go to the devil.
It is the fact that most people need to worry and struggle along with obstacles that keep the world sound and sane.

Is superstition a menu in McDo and Jollibee?

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”    
Bertrand Russell

By Alex P. Vidal

DO we still believe in superstition in this age of cybernetics and space travel?
There are people nowadays who continue to consider superstition as part of their way of life.
But what really is superstition? Is it a menu in the McDonald’s and Jollibee?
Superstition does not merely apply to religion or bigoted and vicious religious practices that place artificial limits to man’s intellectual pursuits.
Partly influenced by religious dogmatism, some superstitious beliefs originated from ancient folklore passed from one generation to another.
Some of them are: Napoleon’s fear of black cats; Socrates’ evil eye; and Julius Caesar dreaded dreams.
Henry VIII claimed witchcraft trapped him into marrying with former mistress Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth I.
Peter the Great suffered a pathological terror of crossing bridges.
Samuel Johnson entered and exited a building with his right foot foremost.
“Bad-luck superstition still keep many people from walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella indoors, or boarding an airplane on Friday the 13th,” Charles Panati narrates in Extraordinary Origins of Everything Things.
“On the other hand, the same people, hoping for good luck, might cross their fingers or, knock wood.”


Panati thinks that superstition beliefs, given their irrational nature, should have receded with the arrival of education and the advent of science.
Yet even today, he observes, when objective evidence is valued highly, few people, if pressed, would not admit to secretly cherishing one, or two, or many superstitions.
Panati says that across America, tens of thousands of lottery tickets are penciled in every day based on nothing more or less than people’s “lucky” numbers.
“Perhaps this is how it should be, for superstitions are an ancient part of our human heritage,” explains Panati.
According to him, archaeologists identify Neanderthal man, who roamed throughout Western Asia 50,000 years ago, as having produced the first superstitious (and spiritual) belief: survival in an afterlife.
Whereas earlier Homo sapiens abandoned the dead, Neanderthals buried their dead with ritual funerals, interring with their body food, weapons, and fire charcoals to be used in the next life.
Panati says the superstition and the birth of spirituality go hand and hand is not surprising. Throughout history, one person’s superstition was often another’s religion.
The Christian Emperor Constantine called paganism superstition, while the pagan statesman Tacitus called Christianity a pernicious, irrational belief.


Protestants regarded the Catholic veneration of saints and relics as superstitious, while Christians similarly viewed Hindu practices.
“Today there seems to be no logical reason why a wishbone symbolizes good luck while a broken mirror augurs the opposite,” Panati elaborates. “But in earlier times, every superstition had a purposeful origin, a cultural background, and a practical explanation.”
Superstitions arose in a straightforward manner. This was how Panati explained it:
Primitive man, seeking answers for phenomena such as lightning, thunder, eclipses, birth, and death, and lacking knowledge of the laws of nature, developed a belief in unseen spirits.
He observed that animals possessed a sixth sense to danger and imagined that spirits whispered secret warning to them. And the miracle of a tree sprouting from a seed, or a frog from a tadpole, pointed to otherworldly intervention.
His daily existence fraught with hardships, he assumed that the world was more populated with vengeful spirits than with beneficent ones. (Thus the preponderance of superstitious beliefs we inherited involve ways to protect ourselves from evil.)


To protect himself in what seemed like a helter-skelter world, ancient man adopted the foot of a rabbit, the flip of a coin, and a four-leaf clover.
It was an attempt to impose will on chaos.
And when one amulet failed, he tried another, then another.
In this way, thousands of ordinary objects, expressions, and incantations assumed magical significance.
In a sense, we do the same thing today. A student writes a prize-winning paper with a certain pen and that pen becomes “lucky.”
A horse player scores high on a rainy day and weather is then factored into his betting.
We make the ordinary extraordinary.
In fact, there’s scarcely a thing in our environment around which some culture has not woven a superstitious claim: mistletoe, garlic, apples, horseshoes, umbrella, hiccups, stumbling, crossed fingers, rainbows. And that’s barely the beginning.
“Though we now have scientific explanations for many once-mysterious phenomena, daily life still holds enough unpredictability that we turn, especially in times of misfortune, to superstitions to account for the unaccountable, to impose our own wishes on world vicissitudes,” concludes Panati.

Monday, December 29, 2014


We upset the balance of nature

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein

By Alex P. Vidal

IT was Sir Francis Bacon who exhorted us to obey our nature if we wish to command it.
By obeying, it doesn’t mean we will not enjoy from its wealth.
By commanding, it doesn’t mean we will destroy it.
The laws of nature definitely are in consonance with our existence, thus there is no need to exploit and ravage nature for our whims and caprices.
There is no need to rape the environment for our own irrational selfishness and greed.
The following are some of the ways in which man has upset nature’s balance and reduced our supplies of natural wealth:
1. Destruction of vast forest areas. Enormous quantities of lumber were taken from our forests for buildings, furniture, fuel, and other useful purposes.
But because of the apparent abundance of forests, lumbering practices were very wasteful. Little heed was given to the replanting of trees to keep our forests producing for the future.
2. Destruction of wild life. When forests are cut away, the homes of countless animals are destroyed, and these animals die.
The balance of nature has been upset at a vital point, and entire species may vanish as a result.
Added to this is the effect of needless trapping and shooting of animals for sport.
Examples of species made extinct or nearly extinct by man most particularly in America are: American bison (buffalo), antelope, passenger pigeon.


3. Reckless use of farm lands. Nature’s orderly processes keep soils permanently fertile.
But when man’s sole interest is to extract the maximum crop from his farm each year, regardless of the consequences, the soil soon loses its essential minerals and cannot support plant life at all. The soil, moreover, loosened and laid bare by the planting and harvesting of a single crop, and the wind and the rain easily carry it away.
4. Overgrazing of pasture lands. Sheep- and cattle-raisers, through lack of planning and foresight, have pastured their animals on the same land year after year.
Here, too, the result has been to lay bare the soil, so that it falls victim to erosion.
5. Pollution of streams. The dumping of sewage and industrial wastes into streams and rivers makes these waters unhealthy for water life.
The result is the destruction of large numbers of fish, oysters, and other valuable organisms.

Sex and emotions

“Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own superiority.”
Mary Wollstonecraft

By Alex P. Vidal

DO we belong in the Maria Clara times if we still equate sex with emotional attachment?
Has sex nowadays become a commercial commodity that can be experienced even with the absence of a serious relationship commitment?
Some of the sexual revolution ideology stated that it was old-fashioned to want to connect sex with feelings—it meant we weren’t “hip.”
Not only marriage but monogamy and love or even tender feelings were often considered to be something only “neurotic” women wanted.
The idea was that “people should spontaneously have sex and not worry about hurting each other, just behave freely and have sex, no strings, anytime with anybody, just for pure physical pleasure.”
But almost no woman in the study conducted by Shere Hite, an American-born German sex educator, wanted that kind of sexual relationship very often—although a few thought that they should:
“I saw a TV show the other night and this guy said we need to separate sex and love and I think he is right—that is why women get hurt so much because men for some reason seem to be able to do this while we have a great deal of trouble separating them. At least I don’t seem to be able to.”
According to Hite, whose sexological work has focused primarily on female sexuality, “Overwhelmingly, women wanted sex with feeling.”


Here are some of the testimonies of the respondents in Hite’s study published in The Hite Report:
ALMA: “I think the sexual revolution is fantastic. But I have remained ‘faithful’ to my husband and will because I know from past experience that sex with me is totally involved with personal relationship. It’s part of me that I can’t separate from the rest of my body and mind. I could not successfully divide my sexual life among two or more.”
ROSE: “I think the sexual revolution has totally distorted the place of sexuality to the point that it has become an end in itself, an escape, or a desperate attempt to achieve love. Writers like Rollo May (Love and Will) and the women’s movement have helped me to value the integration of love and sex as opposed to casual encounters with partners who do not value me.”
DEBBIE: “Well, I like being able to have a sexual life even though I am not married. But I do not like the casual and ‘cool’ sort of relationship as well as what used to be called ‘romance.’ I like to feel involved with someone.”
RUTH: “I approve of the acceptance of sexual desires and relations. But personally I still believe it is more desirable to have a personally intimate and close relationship, not a casual one.”
REBECCA: “Where I see trouble is in people of my generation, many of my friends.  In their attempts to be freed by the sexual revolution they have undertaken sexual practices they are not psychologically equipped to handle. In joining groups gropes and multiple sexual encounters they seem to mess up their lives…leave their partners and families for all the wrong reasons…become middle-aged hippies, as though we could ever be twenties again.
“They seem confused and definitely not content. This older group has simply forgotten that sex should be a thing that fits in nicely with a lot of other things like a good nourishing one-to-one relationship, work, personal growth, strengthening friendships, going fishing and watching sunsets.
“I get the feeling they’ve thrown out all the commitments, not just the bad ones, and sex has become the mainspring of their every waking moment.
“The sexual revolution has permitted me to share home and life with a man without marrying, and it gave me the right to choose my way of life without having to be a flag-carrying rebel about it, but if I were not to pick and choose within this revolution to suit myself, to avoid damaging myself…then I would not have been freed by the so-called revolution either; they’ve just exchanged one kind of slavery for another.
“Without doubt though, more good than harm has come of it, and my generation will pass out of it in time anyway.”


TIFFANY: “I like sex a lot. But it can only supplement a warm affectionate, mutually respecting, full personhood relationship. It can’t be a relationship. It can’t prove love. It can’t prove anything. I have found sex with people I don’t really like, or who I’m not certain will really like me, or with people I don’t feel I know well, to be very shallow and uncomfortable and physically unsatisfying.
“I don’t believe you have to be ‘in love’ and married ‘till death do us part.’ But mind and body are one organism and all tied up together, and it isn’t even physically fun unless the people involved really like each other.”
JESSICA: “The sexual revolution is great. But as an individual I feel I could not have sex except with someone I loved. And if I felt such love I’d want it permanently (as permanent as anything can be). I am even at 53 a romantic idealist—Damn it!”
JANE: “Because I’m very sensitive and afraid of getting hurt (I’m only 18), I still imbue intercourse with very strong emotional meaning. It upsets me and leaves me unhappy to be with someone who views intercourse casually and feels no meaningful tenderness afterwards.”
PAULA: “My emotions play an enormous part in sex for me—maybe too much for my liking. I sometimes feel that I’m too ‘particular,’ or selective or delicate—I have to be feeling very intensely, or in love, or overwhelmed by sexual feelings in order to enter a deep sexual encounter. Sometimes I worry about whether the man will expect too much from me, sometimes whether I will expect too much from him.
“Sometimes I worry about whether I won’t feel enough, or will be disappointed afterwards. At times I have gone out to have a totally casual encounter just to avoid these complications. Most of my relationships—maybe all—begin with a combination of the physical and emotional. I can’t get turned on to a partner without an emotional or mental factor being present, even if not primary. And sometimes it is primary, and the physical secondary.”
DONNA: “I think the sexual revolution has caused a lot of suffering. People use it to avoid commitment; they refuse to work a relationship, preferring to search for the ‘perfect’ love. They fantasize their way through relationships, always seeking perfection, running scared at the first sign that work is needed to help two people together.
“No one knows where the other person is at, and what attracts one may turn off another. Everyone wants to try everything, but not stick to any one thing, so they change from day to day, and are bewildered by the way they and their friends reverse opinions and trade partners.
“I’m not saying the old way was better, but I’m afraid of what kind of life I can look forward to. I’m not married, but even if I do get married it seems that my marriage has a small chance of surviving. And I don’t see the advantages of this style, frankly.”
ELAINE: “I’m confused as hell about the ‘sexual revolution.’ My husband and I lived and slept together for over a year before we were married—and that was fine. We loved each other and there was some kind of commitment between us. The summer before I was married, my (then) fiancĂ© was away and I slept twice with another man because I was curious. Fine.
“As I mentioned earlier, I lost my virginity to a friend, a bit of a cold way to start out, but I was scared and wanting to get laid, so he helped me out. Fine.
“But extra-marital sex, after a man and a woman have made a big commitment to each other—I can’t buy. I moved out on my husband when he took on a girl friend because I couldn’t stand the pain. A year later, right now, we’re negotiating. We seem to be at a stalemate. I hate to think of myself as behind the times, but I just can’t hack anything but monogamy.”


HELEN: “I still believe the greatest sexual satisfaction comes from having a partner you care about. I’ve gone through stages of having several lovers and thinking I was really liberated. But I’m much more fulfilled now with one caring partner.”
MICHELLE: “I went along with the sexual revolution quite a while until I realized that holding my feelings back was causing me lots of anguish. I was very depressed. I tried opening communications line up—that was part of the problem, but not all of it. Now, in love with my lover and trusting him, I can see how all that damaged me—made my trust mechanisms inhibited by sex.
“For a while I stopped having sex with him because I couldn’t love and fuck him both. These days things are much better. I think that the loyalty is important.”
MARY: “It’s an overreaction and after years and years of the old double standard, of women expected to be pure and virginal for marriage and to always set the limits, society has overturned itself.
“Now women are supposed to be willing, ready, and able to have sex with anyone, anytime, no strings attached and so on. Out of the latter swing of the pendulum have come some good opening ups of certain repressive taboos.
“But women, and men, remain oppressed by these roles. I have found that I can’t detach myself from sex and still enjoy it. I can’t make love with someone I’m not supposed to trust—and feel good about it.
“These attitudes don’t treat me like a whole person either. Too much mind/body separation results in either compulsive screwers or strained virgins!”
BERNADETTE: “I have mixed feelings about the sexual revolution. Hedonism seems the opposite side of the coin of Puritanism.  My daughters tell me that they feel used and abused and refused promiscuity, although they have had sex with young men they cared about. I personally hate the singles scene. It makes me feel like a walking cunt!”      
SOPHIA: “I guess I like the idea of intercourse—two people’s bodies joined in an act of love or mutual excitement or whatever, but I’ve become so disillusioned by the whole thing—having met and fucked with a lot of guys who (as I came to realized later) just wanted to get laid and liked the looks of my body but wanted little or nothing to do with me.
“I have come to regard sex as exploitative—having sex is almost like saying ‘here, fuck me, do anything with me that you want, I’m not worth anything anyway.’
“I guess I’m sort of screwed sexually, my ideas about sex are screwed up, and I hope my therapy will help me there. I’ve found I have a lot of guilt feelings and a refusal to enjoy sex, or at least that is what my therapist says.”

Sunday, December 28, 2014

‘It also hurts to be called gaga at bobo’

“An injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult.” Philip Stanhope

By Alex P. Vidal

IF a man occupies the highest position in any organization, he is hailed and praised to high heavens especially by those who have the propensity to ask favors in return for the praises.
If a woman is on top, she is cursed, insulted, ridiculed and underestimated.
To add insult, she is called names.
It’s a male-dominated-world mentality all over again.
The grapevine in the Department of Health (DOH) says acting Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin can’t automatically occupy the post vacated by resigned Secretary Enrique “Ike” Ona.
President Noynoy Aquino is expected to announce the new DOH secretary in January 2015, sources said.
Undersecretary Loreto-Garin, 42, former Iloilo first district House representative, will continue to sit in acting capacity.
Surrounded by high-ranking career employees and subalterns whose loyalty is with Ona and the previous male secretaries, Loreto-Garin initially felt a little bit uneasy especially when President Aquino accepted Ona’s resignation before Christmas Day.
She had revealed earlier that “politics is very dirty” within the department.
“It’s a sad thing. Sa isang taon ko doon, I tried hard to bridge (the gap) with Secretary Ona,” she said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s “The Bottomline with Boy Abunda."
“I am still trying to absorb the punches and praises. When I was told I would be officer in charge, I thought ‘okay, it would be for a month’… And then one by one issue came out, a lot of problems, a lot of misinformation… There were friendships being challenged,” she said.
“If I’m doing public service, why do I have to experience these punches in my life? Sanay ako sa pulitika, a clean debate. But I was not used to character assassination. Nasasaktan ka rin na tinatawag kang gaga, bobo.
She did not reveal who made those scurrilous statements.


The former solon had stopped consulting Ona, who was on leave for more than a month due to health reasons.
Ona’s supposed role in the allegedly questionable procurement of vaccines under his leadership worth P800-million is still being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
It was revealed later on that Ona’s policies and actions did not sit well with Mr. Aquino.
The atmosphere in the DOH is reportedly “patriarchal by nature”, and many senior male underlings find it “uncomfortable” working under “a political appointee with lesser experience.”
Since Dr. Carmencita Reodica, DOH secretary from March 1996  until June 1998, Loreto-Garin is the third female physician to occupy the DOH’s top post but only in acting capacity.
Dr. Esperanza I. Cabral briefly held the DOH portfolio from January until June 2010.
Both Reodica and Cabral came from the private sector did not hold political or elective positions before their DOH stint, while Garin served for three terms as congresswoman.
Reodica had 32 years of experience as a public health worker and government administrator before becoming a DOH boss
Cabral, a renowned cardiologist and top-ranked physician, was a professor at the UP College of Medicine and Pharmacology, scientist and a graduate of Medicine at the University of the Philippines and had served as director of the Philippine Heart Center as well as chief of Cardiology at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center before becoming a DOH chief.


Loreto-Garin started a Iloilo provincial board member and sat as the regional chair of the National Movement for Young Legislators and member of the National Board of the Provincial Board Members League of the Philippines.
She had been elected as the first Filipino board member of the nine-man executive board of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNoWB) when she became a member of the House of Representatives in 2004.
She had served as House deputy majority leader and figured in the curbing of fraud in the Philhealth, amendment of the Physician’s Act, and the Cheaper Medicines Bill.
Loreto-Garin was among those who advocated the pushed for the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Bill, Improved Midwifery Bill and the Magna Carta for Women.
She may not be the best DOH secretary (acting or permanent), but we beg to disagree with her detractors that she is gaga and bobo.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

How sex got a bad reputation

“Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives.” Bertrand Russell

By Alex P. Vidal

IS sex dirty?
Sex for procreation good.
For health good also?
Sexual behavior is often judged by clergymen whose qualifications include their solemn renunciation of sexual intercourse.
“Tragically,” protests Dr. David Reuben in Beyond the Birds and Trees, “those who undertake to control our sexual destinies are often sexually sick themselves. The decency league dedicated to abridging sexual behavior—except on their terms—are simply trying to deprive others of the reasonable use of their sexual orgasms.”
Reuben adds: “Every one of us has made that seven-inch journey through the penis into the vagina to meet the other half of our future protoplasm, and has then settled in the uterus for the 280-day wait. There is no reason now to be ashamed of how we traveled and where we grew—there is no more suitable place.”
In Any Woman Can, Reuben, 81, a psychiatrist and sex expert who now lives in California, says sex started with the crocodile.
“This scaly cold-blooded distant relative of man was the first animal to develop a penis. Before then, life was much simpler. All the earth’s inhabitants had about the same type of sexual equipment and used it about the same way.”
This was how Reuben explained further:
The male and female simply backed up to each other, wiggled their sexual equipment into contact, and oozed primitive sperm into contact with primitive eggs.
There wasn’t much to see, hardly anything to feel, and in many species if a couple turned on like this once a year, it was sufficient. Twice a year was oversexed and many animals copulated only once in a lifetime.


For one thing penis was visible. Secondly, it revolutionized sex by fitting inside the female body. In those days there was no such thing as a vagina. The female sexual equipment was a cloaca consisting of a common channel for urine, feces, and semi-annual eggs. (Things have improved a lot for women since then.)
Obviously, the crocodile penis too has undergone major design modifications as it was handed down over the years to homo sapiens. From the evolutionary point of view the modern American male sports the latest in phallic equipment. But problem still remained.
Men equipped with this wonderful organ quickly developed a lively interest in the female sexual apparatus, by then improved and expanded into a closely-coupled vagina, labia, and clitoris.
Like the crocodiles before them men and women discovered that combining their sexual resources resulted in immense pleasure for both contributors.
For the next 50,000 years all went well. Sex was a normal psychological function as routine as swimming had been to the crocodile and as essential and enjoyable as eating was to early man. Then came the Dark Ages.
About 400 A.D. Western civilization abruptly lurched in a different direction. Suddenly sex was out and guilt was in.
As some long-forgotten genius in the field of medieval motivational psychology discovered, men and women are unbelievably responsive to the liking up of sex and guilt.
From that moment on, the fate of society (and most of its members) was sealed. The most efficient means of controlling human behavior had been put into effect: focus on an activity which everybody must engage in—sex; select its most joyable aspect—copulation; finally provide the threat of severe and relentless punishment for its enjoyment.
As the machinery of sexual repression creaked into action, the power and influence of those in control grew enormously. There were, to be sure, a few hitches at first but all resistance finally yielded to the crushing force of sexual repression.


One of the major early problems was that the moralists actually underestimated the potential of their new weapon to change the destiny of the Western world.
Apparently the original idea was to make sex only a minor transgression. However all levels of society almost immediately succumbed to the irresistible urge to feel guilty about perfectly normal sexual feelings. In effect this was the “new morality,” Dark Ages version.
In some ways a most frightening form. Sex rapidly became an emotional commodity to be consumed under the strictest prohibitions, if at all.
Like the famous insurance policy that pays off is the insured is killed by a cable car on the Fourth of July while carrying an Easter bunny, sexual relations came to be allowed only under the most rigid restrictions.
According to these forerunners of our modern moral guardians, sex was to be limited to married couples in bed, in the dark, fully clothed, ideally involving an important man and a frigid woman with just enough sperm dripping onto the lady’s private parts to bring on a joyless impregnation.
That was another challenge for the moral reformers. Since it sets a liberal tone toward sex, a major hatchet job was in order.
The Good Book was extensively distorted and misinterpreted to make it appear to endorse sexual repression.
Genesis was reinterpreted to make Adam and Eve seem like sinners who were evicted from the Garden of Eden for daring to engage in sexual intercourse.


Later versions were further sanitized and Adam’s penis was replaced by the ever-present serpent hovering greedily around Eve’s pubic fig leaf.
The sexual purifiers smugly ignored reality: if God had not intended His first man and woman to copulate He would simply have molded their mortal clay a bit differently and left them nothing to work with.
Some of the changes were downright silly. In the Revised Version of the Bible of 1881, the word “whore” was changed to “harlot” and the term, “whoremonger” was replaced by “fornicator.” No exact figures are available to the number of souls saved by these semantic gymnastics.
The Bible was only the beginning. After emasculating this once lusty and vital Scripture, every other possible work of man, artistic and literary, were purged and distorted to eliminate any mention of rational human sexuality.
Fifteen hundred years ago the single most enduring principle of Western society was forged: SEX IS BAD.
From that moment to the present, hundreds of millions of innocent people have been brainwashed into believing a silly bit nonsense: sex is synonymous with sin.
Regrettably, no force on earth has been able to turn back the emotional calendar and the misconception goes on, constantly reinforced.
For more than a dozen centuries every persuasive force available has been harnessed to desexualize the most highly-sexed animal this planet has ever known—the human being. Their message is always the same and always untrue: sex, except under nearly impossible circumstances, is wicked.
One of the real tragedies of recent times is the attempted corruption of the human body. A small group of moral crusaders, working with that fevered devotion seen only in the mentally deranged, has been trying to convince everyone that the perfectly synchronized beautifully designed, elegantly planned mechanisms of their bodies are nasty, filthy, and horrid.
That psychological masterpiece which makes human reproduction unique has been distorted by those who should know better into a curse and a sickness.


In reality menstruation signifies perfect health. The ounce or two of blood that is passed each month is the banner of a normal reproductive system. If blood is unclean, imagine what the moral crusaders can make of a nosebleed.
When it comes to sexual intercourse, the guerrilla fighters for purity bring on their big guns. Their favorite word is “dirty”—and they are wrong again.
By every test, sexual intercourse is probably the purest and daintiest activity that a man and woman can engage in, aside from being the most enjoyable.
The genitals themselves are normally free of harmful bacteria, the secretions are perfectly sterile, and the penis and vagina were obviously designed to be brought together in their own inimitable style.
By contrast, the throat of every person, including the anti-sex orators, is crammed with a dozen varieties of lethal bacteria.
These include the bugs that cause diphtheria, gonorrhea, strep throat, and rheumatic fever. If they want to start a crusade, it should probably begin in their own noses and mouths.
Actually the sexual reformers are on the wrong track. If they really hope to make men and women afraid of themselves, they might devote their attention to other organ systems.
Breathing offers a good opportunity. We take in good clean air and pervert it into bad breath! Only a few cynical mouthwash salesmen have jumped on that one, but there is plenty of room for moral education about how the body ruins God-given oxygen.
Sweating is another good area. Fifty thousand years ago human beings used their noses as much as their eyes. They could identify a stranger by his smell and could distinguish approaching animals and men by their specific odors.
The need for that talent has diminished somewhat but the human aroma still clings to man. It is now known as “body odor” and must be eliminated at all costs.
A human who smells like a human is headed for social and occupational disaster. In order to be accepted by the rest of his race, his breath must reek of carbolic acid, his armpits give off the scent of gardenias, and his skin exude hexachlorophene.
A few years ago chlorophyll tablets were developed to expunge once and for all every trace of human smells. (As a tribute to man’s sanity, they were tried and quickly discarded by all except fugitives wishing to avoid the bloodhounds.)


Perhaps the last frontier for those reformers who want to protect us against ourselves is the digestive system. If they really concentrated they might be able to spoil the pleasure of eating for a hundred million or so fellow citizens. All they would need to do would be to explain, “When you take that beautiful food, provided for you by Heaven’s bounty, and put it into your body, it is attacked by filthy chemicals and changed into a green stinking mass. Do you know what that food finally becomes? Do you know what it is turned into?”
The lecture would have to stop at this point because the devoted moralists couldn’t say the word.
Every organ, every secretion, every cell of the human body was put there by nature, by the Creator, for a purpose.
The respiratory system, the digestive system, the sweat glands, all have a vital function in the preservation of the body. The sexual organs are no exception. For the past few hundred years, not more than a fleeting moment in the history of mankind, a strange collection of misguided do-gooders and moralizing misfits have tried to make us forget how we all arrived in this world. They miss the point. Ever since the beginning of the human race, sexual intercourse has been the most noble and wholesome of all man’s activities.
In spite of the shrill protests of those self-appointed moral guardians, nothing is going to change that.
Every woman, married or not, deserves the freedom to enjoy the ultimate expression of her sexual potential. With knowledge and determination and courage, that achievement is within her grasp.


“While physics and mathematics may tell us how the universe began, they are not much use in predicting human behavior because there are far too many equations to solve. I'm no better than anyone else at understanding what makes people tick, particularly women.” Stephen Hawking

By Alex P. Vidal

WE walk into a theater and suddenly crave popcorn.
We feel relaxed in a blue room and anxious in a red one.
Feeling down in the dumps, we take a friend’s advice and just try keeping a smile on our face; miraculously we soon feel better.
How do we explain such things?
Is there an objective way to speak about feelings?
Do we need to refer to the “mind” or “unconscious impulses” to explain them?
Or does it all boil down to a bunch of chemical reaction in the brain?
According to Michael Macrone in Eureka, behaviorism, generally speaking, is a school of psychology with particular answers to such questions.
Unlike Freudians, he explains, this school has no use for hypothetical (that is, unobservable) concepts such as “the Unconscious” or the “id” in explaining psychic events.
“Taking what they consider a more scientific approach,” remarks Macrone, “behaviorists restrict themselves to observable data. And in the case of human psychology, what is observable is behavior—hence the name.”
Behavioristic notions trace back at least as far as the writings of Thomas Hobbes, who viewed the human organism as a superior sort of machine, Macrone observes.
(In Thomas Hobbes’s view, feelings and actions could be described as resulting from physical events or “motions” within the body.)


But as a school and as a cause, Macrone says behaviorism is essentially the creation of the American psychologist John B. Watson, whose 1914 tract Behavior announced its arrival.
Watson vehemently rejected the idea, held since Rene Descartes, the mind and body operate according to different rules, and that the best (and really only) way to study the mind is through introspection.
Second of all, Macrone explains, introspection produces nothing even remotely like hard data: Its findings cannot be quantified.
If psychology were to be scientific, said Watson, it would have to concern itself with hard, observable, and objective data.
And it must leave aside vague (and he thought nonexistent) entities such as “consciousness” or “desire.”
Very much along the lines of Ivan Pavlov, whose work with animals he only read later, Watson and his followers thought that scientific psychology lay in the study of relationships between external and stimuli and individual responses, Macrone reveals.
“If we can show by experiment that some event (say, a bell ringing) regularly causes a particular behavior (say, a nervous twitch), then we’ve established a psychological claim,” says Macrone.
“The total collection of such event/behavior associations suffices as a data pool, and only on such evidence are we justified in making psychological inferences.”
The behaviorists say, events become associated with behavior through a process of learning or “conditioning.”
If a dog is regularly rewarded with a bone every time he obeys the command “Sit!” then he will learn that obedience is pleasurable and the command “Sit!” will henceforth cause him to sit, almost as a reflex.
(Behaviorist B. F. Skinner called this “positive reinforcement.”)


Similarly, Macrone adds, if as children we learn that going to the movies means popcorn, we become conditioned to associate the event (going to the movies) with the behavior (eating popcorn), and the former will provoke an action to achieve the latter.
The basic idea of behaviorism, in short, is that behavior is not just a sign of some mental state but is in effect the same as a mental state.
“We don’t get anywhere by concocting such absurdities as ‘temperament’ or ’id,’ which are just theoretical abstractions from how people behave,” says Macrone.
“It is just as well, and more scientific, to ascribe such phenomena as ‘neurotic behavior’ to conflicting reflex responses to overlapping stimuli. Besides, the behaviorist view supports the ultimate behaviorist goal: Their concern is not with theoretical models, but with making people act better. That is, if you can fix the environment, you can fix people.”


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

No gift this Christmas? No hard feelings

“God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.” Pope Francis

By Alex P. Vidal

WHY do we give gifts especially during Christmas?
Is the giving of gifts mandatory in Yuletide season?
We give gifts to promote the reputation that we are nice, generous people.
And we do it to put pressure on the recipient to reciprocate, says Roger Highfield, author of The Physics of Christmas.
When, for example, we take a basket of fruit to a friend in the hospital, it is because we would like him to do the same for us.
“Gifts have the power to make or break a relationship, for they are indices of how we interpret the status, power, taste, and emotion of our peers,” Highfield observes.
According to Adrian Furnham, a psychologist at University College, London, they reveal how socially aware we are in perceiving others.
It’s not just the issue of whom we choose to give presents to or how much or how little we spend on those presents, but what sort of gifts we select.
And when our motives for giving a particular gift are incorrectly interpreted, our faux pas is on display for all to see.
For example, the gift of a fluorescent fluffy toy might be thought an insult by someone who perceives himself or herself so sophisticated.
“As a channel of communication (a gift) has limited capacity because the range of messages is few and the language not well known,” Furnham says.


“Perhaps the gift-phobics who discover the exchange of gifts between family and friends do so because they don’t speak the language and agree with Wittgenstein, who so wisely noted: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’”
Whitfield says psychologists have now started to decode the language of gifts in an effort to unwrap this seasonal ritual.
They have studied different gift occasions and assessed the various stages in the gift-giving process, the function of gifts, and the norms that govern who may give what to whom and why certain gifts—for instance, money—are often considered inappropriate.
Men and women behave very differently when it comes to Christmas gift giving, adds Highfield.
At the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, David Cheal had great difficulty interviewing as many men and women for one study of Christmas gift giving.
The reason soon become clear: women remain the principal actors in gift transactions.
The annual hunt for that ideal present is overwhelmingly seen as women’s work. Indeed, among couples it is usually the women who maintain the gift economy.
Men tend to give more valuable gifts, less often. Part of the reason is that men generally earn more than women.
But women have been said to dominate Christmas giving perhaps because it is seen as a family festival and women are the “kin keepers,” taking more responsibility for maintaining family and social ties.


One of Cheal’s respondents explained that her reason for giving is “to be a message. You have interest in that person, whatever the message is at the moment.”
Highfiled explains that other studies have shown that we are little different from the Hazda in that gift giving often puts the recipient under an obligation, exploiting a reciprocal instinct that places the act closer to pure barter.
Much of Christmas giving actually reveals a more calculated character, following certain rules and obeying certain taboos.
Carole Burgoyne and Stephen Lea of the University of Exter, England say: “To violate these rules, to give too little, or indeed to give too much, can be insulting.”
One traditional taboo is the gift of money, according to Highfield.
If we hand out checks and cash, he explains, “the materialist underbelly of Christmas is laid bare for all to see. As a result, money is not a universally acceptable medium of exchange.”
Gifts of money also imply a lack of effort and insight on the part of the giver, according to a study of 92 students conducted by Burgoyne and David Routh of Bristol University in England.
Another study by Lea showed that this was particularly so when money was given by a child to a parent, but not when it was a gift from a grandparent or parent to a child.
Highfield says today’s psychologists see gifts as a way of initiating and maintaining relationships—just as we observed in the case of Henry III.
According to Bourgoyne, Christmas tends to differ from other giving rituals, such as birthdays, because it is more likely to involve a simultaneous exchange.
In relationships where reciprocity is expected, there can be serious consequences of the failure to give a gift.
These are more likely to occur in closer relationships, such as between siblings, parents and children, or girlfriend and boyfriend.
“The nonappearance of  a gift is likely to lead to broken relationships and family row unless there is a very good explanation for it,” Burgoyne says.


Nevertheless Christmas is an occasion for the relaxation of other rules of gift giving, notes Highfield.
Because seasonal presents are handed out more widely they are often less intimate and personal than birthday presents. This, of course, can be an advantage for those who are trying to start up a relationship, he adds.
But gently does it, warns Burgoyne: “Gifts that are too expensive may signal a level of commitment and impose a sense of obligation that is not wanted by the recipient. Thus an inappropriate gift—one that is either too cheap or expensive—or one that seems to expose a lack of taste on the part of the donor—carries the risk of rejection.”
Gifts are also excellent way of atoning for sins, but they may be rejected if judged as not sufficiently compensatory, Highfield remarks.
“If they are too compensatory, however, they also can cause an offense. Precise reciprocity could be seen as an unfriendly act if one breaks the rule of approximate worth—that is, giving a return gift of approximately the same monetary value,” he warns.